We compared the shopping experiences at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores in New York City - and the winner features old-school arcade games and a test kitchen
Rachel Askinasi/Business Insider, Katie Warren/Business Insider
- We compared the New York City flagship stores of two luxury retailers: Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
- While Saks has been on 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets since 1924, according to the company, Neiman Marcus opened in the new $25 billion neighborhood of Hudson Yards in March 2019.
- The 5th Avenue space has 10 floors packed with merchandise, two eateries, and several vendors offering different spa services.
- Neiman Marcus spans a much smaller three floors but offers a full-service salon, three eateries, a grooming station, arcade games, a pop-up florist, and a performance space.
- The Manhattan veteran has the edge when it comes to variety, but the Hudson Yards newcomer creates an experience so unique that it can't be ignored.
With Neiman Marcus now on the island of Manhattan ...
... we decided to compare the shopping experience there with its fellow upscale department store, Saks Fifth Avenue, to see which was better.
The first difference comes down to location. Neiman Marcus is located in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood on 30th Street and 10th Avenue.
Surrounded by the Vessel, — a climbable structure built in the neighborhood — the northernmost end of the Highline, ...
... public garden spaces, and residential buildings, there's certainly a lot to do pre- or post-Neiman shop.
Saks is located slightly farther uptown and a few avenues east on 49th Street and 5th Avenue.
Just a few blocks from the even more luxurious Bergdorf Goodman, ...
... Saks is on the cusp of ultra-luxe 5th Ave and more affordable 5th Ave. Stores like H&M, Zara, and Gap are just a few blocks south.
Perhaps the most notable neighbor is New York's Rockefeller Center, located right across the street from the store's 5th Avenue entrance.
It's a tie in the location category since the neighborhoods are so different, and both have so much to offer.
Walking up to Saks, we passed the famous window displays. The store is known for its elaborate windows, particularly during the winter holiday season.
But when we visited, they were making us hungry for summer. This bright display faced Rockefeller Center ...
... while five shoe-focused displays celebrating styles like sneakers, slides, heels, and boots faced 49th Street. Because Neiman Marcus is located in a shopping complex, there are no window displays — Saks takes the cake in this category.
It's easy to get lost marveling at the windows outside Saks, but why just look when you can touch as well? So inside the extremely heavy doors we went.
The Saks flagship store has 10 floors — thankfully directories like this one are plentiful.
There weren't as many directories in Neiman Marcus — and the ones we did see were all digital. Saks takes this round with its helpfully excessive signage.
Walking in on the ground floor of Saks, we were surrounded by stalls featuring the works of different luxury design houses and brands. On the perimeter, we passed Fendi, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and more.
In the center, there were tables and cases featuring accessories from other brands like Loewe, ...
... The Row, ...
... and Valentino.
There was also a giant clothing and accessories display in the center of the floor, between two crossing escalators clad with rainbow, kaleidoscopic railings.
Unlike Saks, the first floor of Neiman Marcus isn't on the ground floor. It's actually the fifth floor of the Hudson Yards shopping complex.
Accessories hit us first when we walked into this newer store, although they weren't as separated by brand as they were at Saks. There were collections of luxury handbags everywhere ...
... including small, fun bags and clutches by Versace and Balmain.
This first floor of Neiman Marcus features luxury hubs similar to the ones seen in Saks. Chanel, ...
... Saint Laurent, ...
... and Chloé are among the chosen few.
This floor also features an extensive sneaker display.
Meanwhile over at Saks, sneakers live on the eighth floor in a section dubbed 10022-SHOE. But more on that later.
Back at Hudson Yards, beauty and fragrances can be found among the other fifth-floor goods.
But at Saks, this stuff has its own floor. It's just up the escalator from the ground floor and has stations and stations of makeup and fragrances.
Big beauty names like Chanel, Tom Ford, and Kiehl's have their own hubs, similar to the clothing and accessories downstairs.
There are also a few non-Saks-affiliated beauty treatment vendors who have stalls around the floor. Face Gym and Martine de Richeville are just two by-appointment options for shoppers or people in the area looking for a face or body treatment.
Neiman Marcus also features a spa experience like its uptown counterpart. Behind the retail counters of Maison Francis Kurkdjian is a spa and set of treatment rooms offering services like a LED LightStim light therapy bed.
Neiman Marcus also offers a walk-up barber station operated by Bevel on the sixth floor, which is mostly for men, ...
... and a larger salon called BLVD on the seventh floor offering services including blowouts, manicures, lash extensions, laser hair removal, waxing, and peel services.
Neiman Marcus has a much more complete set of grooming services available than Saks, so if you're looking to work that into your shopping experience, the Hudson Yards store should be your destination.
At Saks, beauty shares the second floor with jewelry. Tucked away behind the fuss of people shopping for lipstick is a smaller section housing cases of luxury jewels and stalls for brands like Roberto Coin and David Webb.
Most of the stalls had sitting areas for clients to relax while they pick out their jewelry.
The third floor of Saks was a maze of women's designer clothing. Stepping off the escalator we walked from Alaïa Paris through Valentino, Saint Laurent, Loewe, Celine, Givenchy, and Alexander McQueen — the list continued as we rounded the corner.
Overall, the amount of brand-specific stalls at Saks made us feel like we were walking through a small-scale mall, hopping from one mini-store to the next.
This sectioned layout continued into 10022-SHOE, where each brand had its own display.
While much of the store was going through renovations, this floor felt particularly cramped by walled-off work zones. It was also strange to see Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim sitting on makeshift shelves like these ...
... while Louis Vuitton had its own themed display right across the aisle.
The cohesiveness of Neiman Marcus makes it feel like one store that sells different brands. While it can be nice for everything to be separated by brand like at Saks, some shoppers may prefer to compare brands and products side-by-side like they can at Neiman Marcus.
Both stores had their version of personal shopping. The Fifth Avenue Club — Saks' personal-shopping sector — is located at the back of the store's third and fourth floors.
Neiman Marcus also has its own array of personal shopping experiences. The retailer has been offering online personal stylists to to clients since 2018. Clients can now meet those stylists in person at the Hudson Yards store.
There are also lounges where "elite shoppers" can connect with personal stylists — there's a separate lounge for men — and digitally interactive fitting rooms that let shoppers contact stylists or check out via touchscreen.
In-store services at Neiman Marcus also include clothing personalization. Atelier Notify on the store's sixth floor is a shop that offers embroidery, painting, patchwork, distressing, and embellishments to clients' clothes.
At Saks, personalization can be found at the hands of the specific brands that offer it to begin with. The salesman at the Loewe table on the first floor was eager to let me try out the personalization feature of their accessories — he even attached it to my bag!
Shoppers at Saks can also get their denim tailored on-site, though fees may apply. With an entire customization section of the store, Neiman Marcus is the better destination for personalization.
Both stores offer several options for hungry shoppers. Saks has a FIKA coffee bar on the fifth floor ...
... and a sit-down restaurant called L'Avenue at Saks — which doesn't allow photography of any kind inside its doors. A long hallway leading to the hostess stand is lined with dark, heavy drapes and dark carpeting. It felt like a secret clubhouse for the rich. The actual dining area was brighter.
Downtown at Neiman Marcus, there's a retail snack section called Cook & Merchants on the fifth floor, which includes a chocolate shop and coffee bar, ...
... an "upscale casual dining" space on the sixth floor called Bar Stanley ...
... and fine dining restaurant, The Zodiac Room, on the seventh floor.
Neiman Marcus' array of dining options, snacks, and the test kitchen for demonstrations puts the store leaps and bounds ahead of Saks when it comes to eating.
While Saks Fifth Avenue's 10 floors of product have Neiman Marcus beat when it comes to variety ...
... the focus on experiential shopping at Neiman Marcus makes the Hudson Yards store a way more interactive experience. From a pop-up florist ...
... to various arcade games ...
... a performance and multi-purpose space ...
... and elaborate, Instagram-ready displays, it's unlike any other department store we've ever seen.
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